House Passes Bill to Require EPA to Designate PFAS as Hazardous Substances

Jan 20, 2020

The House of Representatives has a bill that requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate and mitigate pollution from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS are chemicals that are resistant to grease, oil, water, and heat, making them highly desirable to industry and consumers, however the ability of PFAS to remain intact in the environment means that there will be increased levels of environmental contamination. If signed into law, H.R.535, the PFAS Action Act, would require EPA to designate PFAS as hazardous substances and prohibits the manufacturing of new PFAS. The bill would also authorize $100 million in both fiscal 2020 and 2021 for a grant program to support the installation of treatment technologies for clean drinking water.

The bill passed the House with 61% of the vote with 223 Democrats and 24 Republicans voting for the bill. Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL)—Ranking Member of the Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which has jurisdiction over the bill—wrote in the dissenting views section of the Committee’s report that “more modest steps are warranted in the interim to address demonstrated health risks and additional review to cover those areas that need more attention.” This opposition is echoed by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which stated that the bill “would create considerable litigation risk, set problematic and unreasonable rulemaking timelines and precedents, and impose substantial, unwarranted costs on Federal, State, and local agencies and other key stakeholders in both the public and private sectors.”

PFAS were also addressed in the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was signed into law on December 20, 2019. The bill requires the Department of Defense to reduce its use of PFAS, a compromise reached by both the House and Senate in order for the bill to pass, though the House had been pushing to require the EPA to designate PFAS as hazardous.

ASEME will continue to monitor this issue.

Previous related article (12/2/19): EPA Announces $4.8 Million for New Research on Managing Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS).

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